Olympiakos kept its hopes alive in the series for the league crown, reducing the arrears to 2-1 after beating Panathinaikos 76-68 in Game 3 on June 1.
Playing in a hot atmosphere at the Peace and Friendship Stadium, Olympiakos had an impressive Yiannis Bourousis and an effective Vassilis Spanoulis to overturn Panathinaikos?s leads in the second and third period and avert a sweep by the European champion.
Unlike in the other games of the series, Olympiakos managed to contain the Panathinaikos attack in the second half and forced Panathinaikos to make one error after another in the fourth period to turn a five-point deficit into an eight-point victory in the end. Panathinaikos ended the game with 16 errors against Olympiakos?s 11.
With more action under the basket through Bourousis, Andreas Glyniadakis and Loukas Mavrokefalidis, Olympiakos earned more than twice as many free throws as Panathinaikos (24 against nine).
This came just three days after the Reds had protested «harsh treatment» by the referees in Game 2, when Panathinaikos got 31 free throws and Olympiakos nine.
The hosts had a great start to the game, once again, to lead 22-14 and end the first period five points ahead (24-19).
Drew Nicholas put Panathinaikos in the lead with three three-pointers, although captain Dimitris Diamantidis failed to find the target from outside the 6.75-meter zone. The Greens ended the first half leading by seven points (46-39).
Usually the third period of each game is the best for Panathinaikos, but a passionate Olympiakos covered the distance almost immediately to regain the upper hand by two points (58-56).
The ding-dong match continued, with Panathinaikos storming into the fourth period to lead 66-61 with a 10-3 partial score, but that was the end of the champion?s joy on the night.
Olympiakos closed ranks and started shooting successfully from a distance, while holding Panathinaikos in defense, to perform an 11-0 partial score and lead 72-66, taking the match beyond the visiting side.
Repeated three-point efforts by Panathinaikos could not find the target, allowing Olympiakos to celebrate its first win in the finals and take the series to a fourth game at the Olympic Sports Hall on June 5.
One of the key reasons for Olympiakos?s win was containing Diamantidis, who only made three out of 10 field goals on the night.
Bourousis scored 16 points for Olympiakos and Spanoulis added another 13, while Mike Batiste got 15 and Nicholas 13 for Panathinaikos.
In Thessaloniki Aris has now taken the lead in the fight for the third spot, after defeating PAOK 67-59 away from home on June 1.
The series continues on June 5 at Aris?s home court.